If you think you and your garden need a break this winter, it is important to prep your soil and put your garden to rest. You can do this by using compost and mulching. There are many different types of compost that can be used: manure, mushroom compost, and worm compost, to name a few; and there are also many different mulching mediums. Watch this video to learn more about the kinds of mulch you can find for free:
Cover crops are another great way to preserve and enrich your soil over winter, and they act as a green compost when you turn them over in the spring too! Cover crops are planted in the early fall and either die during the winter, but continue to protect the soil (these are called “winter-killed cover crops”); or they survive the winter and begin to grow again in the spring (these are called “winter-hardy cover crops”). Oats, rapeseed, field pea, and rapeseed radish are examples of winter-killed cover crops; while winter wheat, winter rye, hairy vetch, and crimson clover are examples of winter-hardy cover crops.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of cover crop. Winter-killed cover crops are great because they are dead in the spring and super easy to till under; allowing you to plant earlier and easier in the spring. However, it can be difficult to get the cover crop to grow enough before it dies, so that it will be thick enough to actually protect the soil.
This requires the cover crop to be planted earlier in the season than winter-hardy cover crops. Under seeding other vegetables in your garden, such as corn or tomatoes, in late August with winter-killed cover crop is a good way to give the crop an earlier start, and ensures you will have enough protection on your soil during the winter.
On the other hand, winter-hardy cover crops can be planted later than winter-killed cover crops (around the end of August and early September) because they can continue to grow and protect the soil throughout the winter. However, they are more difficult to remove in the spring (they should be clipped to stop growth and then tilled under the soil) and you need to wait a few weeks after clearing them before you plant because the decomposition process of the crop will reduce available nitrogen in the soil for your incoming veggies.
Take a look at this video to see the best methods for planting cover crops:
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